Boys Back to BackSo much goes into protecting our children. We buy the best car seats and automobiles with numerous airbags. There are laws that bicycle operation must include a helmet and food product manufacturers are required to list all ingredients so we can guard against unwanted additives and preservatives.

As parents, we want to fight every battle and slay every dragon our kids might encounter. Perhaps the main way we protect our offspring is in keeping them healthy. That’s why it’s so important to know the most essential immunizations for your children.

The Purpose of Immunizations

Try to imagine what it would be like for your child to become critically ill just by contracting a virus while at a birthday party or becoming crippled while swimming during a family vacation. In today’s modern world of immediate health care and readily-available medicine, it is easy to forget what things were like for parents only a few generations ago.

In America, children have been protected from a variety of diseases through a government-mandated immunization program, since the 1940s. Indeed, today’s parents and grandparents have probably never encountered anyone with smallpox and our children don’t know the meaning of the word rubella.

Vaccinations have all but eradicated numerous diseases in this country, such as polio, diphtheria, and mumps. Immunizations are necessary to make you immune to these germs and infections.

However, there are many locations outside of the United States that do not have access to advanced health care and crucial vaccines. Therefore, it is still possible for you or your children to be infected with one of these illnesses either while traveling or by coming in contact with someone who is carrying a virus.

In addition, some diseases appear to be making a comeback, like whooping cough, due to parents not having their children properly protected. Being immunized against these diseases is your best defense in preventing illness.

Schedule of Immunizations for Children

The most common vaccine is popularly known as DTaP, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. There is also the vaccine called MMR that saves you from contracting mumps, measles, and rubella. Your child will need the first round of these vaccinations before turning two years old.

Other immunizations required during this age are varicella, which prevents chicken pox, Hepatitis B, a disease which can cause liver failure if contracted by an infant, and rotavirus, characterized by severe diarrhea. There are also shots to protect your child from polio as well as the Haemophilus influenza Type B, abbreviated as HIB, as part of this first package of immunizations. Most pediatricians recommend that babies receive a flu vaccination at this time as well.

Often, follow-up shots are needed to obtain full protection. Your doctor may inform you that your child must get booster shots of certain vaccines when he or she is between the ages of 4 and 11. All immunizations have to be up to date when your child is ready to enter school, and you will be required to show proof, otherwise they might be prohibited from enrolling on time.

From ages 12 to 18, your child may still need a few booster shots. It is also a good time to catch up on any vaccines that might have been missed over the years.

During the teen years, children will typically receive the vaccine to protect against meningitis for the first time, which you may see referred to as MCV4. Caused by a type of bacteria, this is a very serious disease that can cause swelling around the brain and is potentially fatal. In addition, they should still get a flu shot every year.

Another new vaccine that will be introduced at this time is HPV or human papillomavirus. This vaccine has not been on the market for very long but it helps to protect both young girls and boys from genital warts and cancers of the anus and cervix.

They will need one series of shots as a preteen and another in a few years. This will ensure that your child remains protected from these diseases well into adulthood.

It is critical to stay protected from these illnesses throughout your lifetime. Even if you never contract them as a child, it is still possible to become sick as a grownup. If this situation occurs, the disease tends to hit harder and make you sick longer. You also run the risk of infecting any children who come in contact with you.

Controversy Surrounding Vaccines

You may have seen recent reports that seem to link vaccines to childhood conditions, such as autism. Studies have shown that there is no connection and that immunizations are completely safe.

Other parents may be concerned that receiving so many shots in the infant and toddler years can be dangerous. However, it would be more perilous if the child actually contracted the disease. It is also worth noting that children who receive vaccines experience few, if any, side effects.